The aims of our writing curriculum are to ultimately send children out into the real world with a proficient command over the English language to enable them to succeed in whatever path they choose. Our curriculum is designed to be progressive and challenging, and allow key skills to be recalled and revisited often. At the heart of our curriculum is talk: we firmly believe that children must be able to talk it before they can write it and so this principle underpins much of what we do.
Early Years: Nursery and Reception
Early Years writing is all about getting the muscles in the children’s bodies ready for mark-making. To become amazing writers, they need to learn to control their BIG movements (including those involving their whole bodies!) before they can develop their little ones (like the muscles in their hands) In Nursery, the children do this without even realising because they are having so much fun! We are incredibly lucky to have an amazing outside space and our children love to spend their time digging, climbing and getting messy and creative in our mud kitchen! With so much space to play in, they love to use those big muscles in their bodies to run, jump, hop, bend and stretch. These are all precursors to writing that we will need as we move through school! Children in our Early Years setting have opportunities to mark-make in all areas, and they learn, over time and discussions with grown-ups, that the marks they make have meaning. When they are ready, they will be exposed to the letters of our language in phonics sessions and will begin to write simple words. As the children move into Reception, they continue to learn the graphemes associated with the sounds they learn. Once they have the basic single-sound code, they are then able to combine these to make simple words and sentences. The children in Reception continue to work incredibly hard on their fine and gross motor skill development to make sure their fingers are strong enough for the precision needed to hold a pencil.
KS1 and KS2
Our English work throughout school is connected to our learning in other curriculum areas through use of our tailor-made book spine. The written outcomes produced by our children are linked to the book they are studying and/or their topic learning. A range of both fiction and non-fiction genres are taught in each year group, increasing in breadth as we move through KS2.
Drama and talk underpins our writing curriculum, just as it does our reading curriculum. Children explore issues and characters within books using drama as a tool for writing- the idea being that if they have had experience of talking it, they will face a blank page with a head whirring with ideas! We are lucky enough to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and each year, our children get the opportunity to perform with other schools in our local area in an incredible festival. We utilise the strategies taught by the company not only in our Shakespeare work, but to improve the written outcomes in all genres of writing we complete. Similarly, we may sometimes adopt a Talk for Writing strategy to our writing where we use talk to learn a text off by heart before innovating the story to create our own versions. We find that this helps the children to develop confidence as writers, particularly lower down the school. Ambitious and exciting vocabulary is taught within each unit to continue to widen the bank of words the children have at their disposal. Alan Peat sentence types are also taught to the children to encourage variation in sentence structure and composition and children know not only the rules of the sentence type, but the correct grammatical terminology, and the reasons an author would use it. Regular DART activities to revisit the sentence types are embedded into our curriciulum so that we have them to hand when we write. Children are presented with high-quality examples of work which are analysed for key features and impact on the reader before they plan and draft their own work. Children are taught to self-correct, edit and improve their writing independently, as well as responding to teacher suggestions for improvement.
Handwriting is taught all of the way through school and is practised, modelled and reinforced on a daily basis. In Early Years, the correct letter formation is taught. In Year 1, children are taught unjoined, precursive lettering before beginning to join in a cursive style in Year 2. As the children move into Year 3, it is expected that they join their letters in a neat and fluent style.
We have a clear marking policy in school which the children respond well too. They know to look for the stars in their work: the purple star meaning they have done something perfectly; the green meaning there is some room for improvement or a ‘marvellous mistake’ has been made. Children are formatively assessed in their writing on a daily basis, but summative pieces are marked against their year group targets to monitor progress. Year group teams will work together to do this, but we will also moderate across phases and across the school to ensure our decisions are consistent. We also work with other schools across the local area to ensure that we are both objective and robust.
Whole School Projects
We love nothing more than to come together as a big school community to undertake a project! When our written outcomes are all linked, it is incredible to see the amazing progress of our children across the school. Because we are a Royal Shakespeare Company Associate school, we love having the whole school working on a shared play and we are always amazed at just how incredibly well our children respond to the challenge! We can’t wait to do this more when we are allowed to mix again!